Blogging “Blue”: Executive Council II

This is the twenty-fourth in a series of posts on the “Blue” Book for General Convention 2012. Previously, I blogged about Executive Council I. Next up is Agencies & Boards. Please see my index of General Convention 2012 resolutions, with a summary of the 7WD position on them.

Here are a bunch of resolutions from Executive Council. Zoinks. There are a lot of resolutions.

A127: Recommit to Being Anti-Racists for the Next Three Triennia (Until 2018). Likely vote: NO, though I support the aims of this resolution.
I have steadfastly resisted the idea that we pass resolutions restating things that have already been stated. Here we are simply restating resolution 2009-A142, with some additional pleas about further reduced budgets for anti-racism work. I question the efficacy of pass these kinds of resolutions, but I am also aware that I benefit from categories of privilege which may well cause me to miss the need of a resolution such as this. So I will listen carefully, and if it will have efficacy, I can vote for this. There are also other resolutions on anti-racism which I will support, and which would largely replicate what is here. Please note that I do believe our church needs to do further work to make itself a true home for people of all races.

A128: Direct Dioceses to Examine Impact of Doctrine of Discovery. Likely vote: YES.
This resolution expands the message of 2009-D035 on the Doctrine of Discovery. I am not completely sure there will be efficacy, but it is a relatively new issue for many people and an expansion of what the previous General Convention passed. So there is something new here — and certainly something important for us to consider.

A129: Increase Aid for Ministry with Native Peoples. Likely vote: YES, but hoping for an amendment.
This resolution calls for an increased investment in four aided dioceses. I hope we will continue our investment at least at current levels for the near future. Long-term, my hope is that someone will be looking at the sustainability of this model. Should we combine some of these dioceses? Or create a non-geographic diocese for Native Peoples? But while we do the important work of long-term strategy, we need to continue our investment, and perhaps increase it.

A130: Increase Program Budget of Office of Native Ministries. Likely vote: NO, but I am open to changing my mind.
In the current climate and budget reality, I’m not sure we can or should increase churchwide program budgets by 20% as this resolution asks. However, I also think there may be exceptions or particular areas that need an increase. If this is one of them, I can vote to support this. Otherwise, I think we have to get used to living in an era of constrained resources.

A131: Express Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. Likely vote: YES, if amended.
The first four resolves of this one call on various governments to do various things, and I cannot support this kind of resolution. However, the final two resolves ask congregations and dioceses to engage in issues related to Indigenous People. This is an appropriate and excellent way to involve the Episcopal Church in the wider world — directing congregations to do local formation and engage the issues.

A132: Dismantling of the Effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. Likely vote: YES, but with concerns.
This resolution essentially restates 2009-A152, which concerned burial sites of Indigenous People. However, this new one also asks congregations to be mindful of these issues when expanding or conducting activities. A reminder of these issues is not a bad idea, though I wonder if anyone will know that General Convention has passed this resolution.

A133: Financial Support for the Indigenous Theological Training Institute. Likely vote: YES.
If passed, calls for increased investment in the Indigenous Theological Training Institute. I support this for two reasons. First, we should be investing more in all kinds of theological education. Second, if we can raise up more local leaders, the communities affected will benefit greatly.

A134: Refocus the Mission of the Jubilee Advisory Committee for Poverty Alleviation. Likely vote: NO.
I was all set to support this — because the alleviation of poverty is something our church could do a much better job of working at — until I carefully read this resolution and its explanation. It seems quite possible I am missing something, so I am eager to be educated if that’s the case. This committee would be a subcommittee of Executive Council to advise the Mission Program Office at 815 on these issues. Here’s my problem: this committee would be an extension of an already confused relationship between Executive Council and the staff of 815. Again, as I have said before, the Executive Council, as the board of the DFMS, should set priorities and policies toward which the staff should work. The task of the EC is not to direct the staff in detailed ways, but rather to set directions. If the staff fails to adhere to policy or priorities, then that should be dealt with in its own right.

If passed, this newly refocused committee would be a creature of Executive Council, advising the staff, and then reporting back to Executive Council back through the staff. Simply put, it crosses the streams. Committees of EC should report directly back to EC. If the staff wants to form an advisory committee, they should just do that; it will help them do their work. If the EC feels that the staff needs advice, then they need to set clearer policies. We need more health and clarity right now, not less. I strongly oppose this one on organizational reasons, not because I doubt our need to do a better job of alleviating poverty. I fear this would make our situation worse, not better.

A135: Focus Mission Funding on Alleviating Poverty and Injustice. Likely vote: YES.
Creates a program to provide grants to local initiatives to alleviate poverty. The total amount is $400,000 per annum, which is quite small in our $100M+ triennial budget. Rather than develop complex programs at the churchwide level, we should do more of this: giving grants to entrepreneurial projects at the local level. Provided we do a good job of sharing success and failure stories, the church benefits from experimentation and ministry. In other words, we can quickly learn the best ways to do our work at the local level, which is the whole point of having a churchwide office in the first place.

A136: Affirming the Compatibility of Science and the Christian Faith. Likely vote: NO.
Back in the day, the church and science didn’t get along so well. Now even the Vatican is cozy with science, after a 500 year breach. There are certainly Christians who believe that science and faith are somehow incompatible, but I have hardly met anyone in the Episcopal Church who thinks this. Among all the things we could devote institutional energy to, I just don’t see this as something that demands the attention of the General Convention.

A137: Strengthening Families. Likely vote: NO.
I find myself opposing resolutions with which I agree in some respects. In this case, the resolution asks our church to tell our health providers that we think infertility treatment is important, and in affirms a resolution passed in 2000. First, we don’t need to restate things already said. Second, this is another instance of us telling someone us what to do. If we are particularly concerned about this issue, then we should instead say that we will only purchase health insurance from companies whose policies support our views. That will have immediate and clear effect, possibly at some real cost to us. But if it’s important…

But more to the point, the resolution is entitled “Strengthening Families”. Are infertility treatments the only or best way to do that? No, of course not. Let’s pass a more comprehensive resolution with some teeth. Sentiments may be lovely, but they’ll get us nowhere. (Also, there are some really bright Episcopalians who oppose infertility treatments, believing that adoption might be the better answer in many cases. Are we prepared to dive into the fullness of this morally complex issue?)

A138: Ending Statelessness Discrimination Against Women. Likely vote: NO.
This one commemorates a UN Convention and tells the US Government “to work to end discriminatory practices that leave women and children vulnerable to statelessness.” As I have said repeatedly, I have no doubt this is an important issue, but I question whether General Convention should be telling the US government what to do. More on this elsewhere.

A139: Gender Violence. Likely vote: YES.
A letter from the Anglican primates is affirmed. Minus one for affirming something, but plus one for engaging the Anglican Communion and finding something positive in a recent primates’ meeting. The reason I primarily support this is that it asks “the Department of Global Partnership identify and disseminate resources about gender violence and promote their use by dioceses and parishes.” Seems like a good idea, so long as we do this throughout the whole Episcopal Church, and not just in the US. In other words, unlike some other issue-based resolutions, this one is global in scope and specific in its local application. A win-win.

A140: Advocate for Maternal and Infant Health. Likely vote: YES.
Finally, I can get behind a resolution directing the Office of Government Relations to do something, namely, “to partner with international and domestic efforts to encourage and advocate for legislation, programs, services and advocacy related to improving maternal health and infant development.” Why this one? Because it transcends one nation, and because it suggests that we will take action, not just direct others. Maternal health is a real problem in our world (oddly enough, especially in the US which ranks appallingly low among developed nations). The resolution asks the Episcopal Church to take action, and I hope someone will modify that to say that individual Episcopalians will take action.

A141: Fund Meetings of the Council of Episcopal Women’s Organizations. Likely vote: YES.
Funds gatherings of a council of women’s groups. One might wonder why these groups can’t send their own representatives to a gathering, but the requested amount is so small ($5,000 per annum) that it will surely be a good investment.

A142: Study Expansion of Canonical Residency. Likely vote: YES.
I wouldn’t have thought of this as a women’s issue, but it makes perfect sense. See, you can learn something when you read the “Blue” Book! This resolution would make it easier for priests to transfer their canonical residency from one diocese to another. Many bishops will only allow rectors to become canonically resident, leaving assisting and non-parochial clergy out of the loop. Given that women are more likely to engage in non-rector ministry (which is its own problem), this becomes a women’s issue, though it is really an issue for the whole church. I’d love to see a consistent policy for canonical residency transfers, and frankly, all the arguments for refusing transfers are silly. Let priests become members of the diocese in which they are serving. Period.

A143: Develop a Search Toolkit. Likely vote: YES.
There are some things that bug me about this, like why does it take General Convention to get this done? Nevertheless, I will support this one. If passed, asks for $5,000 to develop a toolkit that might help women applicants for leadership positions and discernment committees. It’s still too hard to break into what is, sadly, an ol’ boys club. We need to fix that. If this toolkit will help make it easier for women to land the better leadership positions in our church, I’m all in favor of it. If you think because our Presiding Officers are women, our church is not sexist, come to the Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes sometime. Most of the “cardinal rectors” are men. It’s still a boys’ club, with a few notable and welcome exceptions. I’ll say it again. We need to fix that.

A144: Monitor Women and Other Underrepresented Groups. Likely vote: YES.
This resolution tackles the precise problem I was just describing, focusing especially on bishop searches. If passed, various data would be gathered about women and other under represented groups in applicant pools and selection processes. Annually, a report would be given to the Executive Council. My only change would be to ask that this report be made available to the whole Church.

A145: Continue Dialogue in the Anglican Communion. Likely vote: NO.
First off, why in the world is this resolution here? It is precisely identical with A126, also coming from Executive Council? Does anyone there talk with anyone else?

Second, as I wrote before, there are several responses to the Covenant floating around, ranging from complete acceptance to complete rejection (this one). I’d like us to say something other than yes, but I think we need a more nuanced answer.

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2 Responses

  1. Grace Matthews says:

    re A136: Affirming the Compatibility of Science and the Christian Faith: I know that it’s hard to believe in 2012, but there ARE Episcopalians who believe the universe was literally created in 6 24hr. days and any education to the contrary or any suggestion that science is compatible with religion is vigorously rejected as one’s not having sufficient faith to believe that God can do anything. It amazes me. Some women at our church absolutely refuse to attend a women’s class on “Religion and Science: Pathways to Truth” although the study affirms the compatibility of both in eloquent and thought provoking ways utilizing the latest scientific theories and discoveries and taught by top theologians /or scientists. This resolution may be more important than you realize as many of the people who have left or will leave the Episcopal Church read the Bible literally and think accepting current scientific findings is a form of heresy.
    I speak from experience as a member of the remnant of a “split” church. Sigh.

  2. Grace Matthews says:

    I guess I should look up the doctrine of discovery, too!

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